Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Limits of Electoral Politics

At the end of this story from Politico is this quote from Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of Daily Kos: “Let’s be honest, it is either Obama or John McCain. So we really don’t have much of a choice.”

This reminds me of the point of a Simpson's episode that I close the Preface with in my book, Impeach the President:

"Homer finds himself in an alien spaceship orbiting Earth. The aliens have managed to kidnap the Republican and Democratic Party nominees for president and have them imprisoned in capsules on their ship. Hitting buttons randomly on the ship’s control, Homer inadvertently jettisons the two candidates into deep space. Doh! After this, Homer somehow manages to steer the spaceship back to Earth and upon landing in Washington, D.C. finds the two aliens, disguised as the two presidential candidates, giving campaign speeches together on the Capitol Steps. Homer unmasks the aliens, revealing them to be two very large, very grotesque, octopus-looking creatures. The crowd gasps. The aliens hesitate for a moment. Then one of them says to the crowd: 'It’s a two-party system; you have to vote for one of us!' There is a pause and then someone from the crowd says: 'He’s right!'

"Is he?" (p. xxiii)

So, the unmasking of Obama's truer nature will continue as time goes on, with his speech before AIPAC shocking many of his supporters for its belligerence and wholesale adoption of the Bush rationale for attacking Iran, and now his reneging on his promise to filibuster the FISA/telecom amnesty bill further alarming progressives. Daily Kos' founder's comments about our not having much of a choice here shows how bankrupt the this-party-or-that-party choice is. I want to say about that sorry statement: "Is that all there is? Is that what you will accept?"

We do have another path, if you choose to accept it, Mr. Phelps, and that is the independent actions of the people, not begging and pleading to one corporate party or the other, but demanding what is right and changing the game. It's happened before. Why shouldn't it happen now? What better time than this? What more important time than this?

Netroots feel jilted by Obama's FISA stand


When former Sen. John Edwards dropped out of the presidential race, the progressive Netroots took their affections to Barack Obama, defending him against attack from Hillary Rodham Clinton and others.

But with his support of a government surveillance bill that offers retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies — a bill that he vowed last year to filibuster — the honeymoon has ended.

Disappointed over his position on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the online activists feel jilted and betrayed and have taken to questioning his progressive credentials. One prominent blogger, Atrios, has even given him the moniker “Wanker of the Day.”

“He broke faith,” said Matt Stoller, a political consultant and blogger at “Obama pledged to filibuster, and he is part of that old politics, in this case, that he said he wasn’t. It will spur us to challenge him.”

The FISA debate marks the presumptive Democratic nominee’s first serious break from the liberal Netroots in the general election. He is still their candidate, but the FISA issue has reignited skepticism among major bloggers, who had largely pushed aside doubts about Obama when Edwards, their favored candidate, ended his bid in February.

See Also
Obama's aim: 14 Bush states and local races
Meet the make-believe strategists of TV
Obama: Help with Clinton's debt
Obama’s post-partisan persona hasn’t always meshed so well with the noisy and contentious Netroots, and his rise to prominence has come without their full-throated support. He told reporters in February that he doesn’t read blogs and has long been viewed as cool to the Netroots — a notion that the candidate’s new media director, Joe Rospars, disputed this week at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York, saying Obama was a favorite of the readers of the major bloggers.

Either way, the Netroots eventually took Obama’s side against Clinton, and some came to view him as a champion of progressive causes.

His stance on the FISA bill, however, has brought Obama back down to earth, in part because the liberal blogosphere cares more about civil liberties than many of the other traditional issues that have long dominated the Democratic agenda. While the mainstream media fixated on Obama’s decision to opt out of the public financing system — and newspaper editorial boards eviscerated him — the Netroots commended Obama for showing political savvy. After all, the readers of liberal blogs are many of the small donors who gave Obama reason to reject public financing.

FISA, however, was different. Many of the most popular progressive blogs built their following by mining anger toward President Bush, the Iraq war and what bloggers view as his disregard of the Constitution and the civil liberties guaranteed by it. By granting immunity to telecom companies, civil courts will likely dismiss lawsuits that might unearth details about the administration’s activities, eliminating an opportunity to hold Bush accountable.

“It angers the blogosphere to its core,” said Jane Hamsher, founder of the popular blog “We want to be able to know: What did you do? If we can get that information, we can make sure they don’t do that again. We can get the public engaged.”

Obama’s decision to support the bill with the immunity provision was not surprising, she said. Republicans frame critics of such security measures as soft on terrorism, and the presumptive Democratic nominee probably does not want it used against him.

“[A] lot of people tried to convince themselves that he was a progressive hero, and I think they were disappointed,” Hamsher said. “You can feel a real shift in the zeitgeist online.”

Still, the disillusionment goes only so far. The liberal blogosphere’s most recognizable name, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of Daily Kos, said Monday on MSNBC’s “Countdown With Keith Olbermann”: “Let’s be honest, it is either Obama or John McCain. So we really don’t have much of a choice.”

At stake for Obama in the FISA vote is the intensity of support for Obama, Moulitsas said

No comments: